On Monday, news came out that former bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz suffered a groin tear and was forced to pull out of his title unification bout against Renan Barao at UFC 169. The headlining fight was supposed to be Cruz's big return to action after an almost two and a half year hiatus, but the injury pushed that back further and forced Cruz to vacate his title. With the main event slot open, the UFC reached out to former contender Urijah Faber to rematch Barao.
"The California Kid" first met at UFC 149. That interim title match was caused by the original injury to Cruz. Barao stepped in and managed to score a one-sided unanimous decision victory over Faber. Despite being outworked throughout their first match, Faber told MMA Junkie he's confident heading into the rematch:
"I think he’ll probably try to do the same thing he did last time to me, which slowed the pace down, tit for tat standing, and get a couple more kicks and a couple more punches landed," he said. "But I’m going to try to make this a lot more intense fight. I hate being in fights that aren’t super exciting, and I’m going to try to make this as exciting as possible and get the finish. … I want to pick the pace up and get in his face. I want to make it a fight that we both have to get a little dirty.
"I think the difference with he and I in our last fight was very small, but I’ve got to make sure this time I move it in my direction so I beat him to the punch, so I make sure to implement my game plan and make sure that I implement my will on him."
Since losing the interim title fight to Barao, Faber has gone on a serious tear and is currently riding a four fight win streak. Most recently, he took on fellow former contender Michael McDonald at UFC on Fox 9. It took him only until the second round to dispatch "Mayday" with a TKO. Now, he's only got three and a half weeks to show he's improved enough to upset Barao.
While not as active as Faber, Barao has not been idle as an interim champion. First, he took on Michael McDonald at UFC on Fuel TV 7, winning by submission in the fourth round. Then he faced Eddie Wineland at UFC 165 and scored a second round TKO. His interim title has finally been named the official bantamweight division championship.
The UFC is heading to the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ for UFC 169 on February 1. The co-main event also features a title fight as Jose Aldo will look to defend his featherweight title against Ricardo Lamas.